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What way forward to tackle climate change?
Clare Wilkins, Nottingham Socialist Party
Around 50 people attended the recent Nottingham launch of 'This Is Not A Drill', the new handbook about challenging climate change by Extinction Rebellion (XR) which contains 'everything you need to know about' how 'to be radical', 'rise up' and 'rebel'.
The intended speakers were trapped on a train at Corby caused by a land slip after heavy rain, so local activists spoke instead.
The campaign is one of non-violent direct action. XR thinks that a 'critical mass' of people taking action will lead to government action because they will be 'impossible to ignore'. They are not interested in party politics. Time is short, so they argue they have to deal with the current Tory government.
The introduction in the book does refer to 'a crisis of capitalism and colonialism', but XR calls upon existing capitalist governments to 'tell the truth, act to halt biodiversity loss and move to zero CO2 emissions by 2025, and set up citizens' assemblies'. There were no pro-posals about how such assemblies should be democratically elected or accountable.
The speaker from XR said that the 'April rebellion' in London had raised the climate debate up the political agenda and made it hard to ignore. Indeed, the government declared a 'climate emergency' but said it would seek to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. This shows that the government is not serious about fighting climate change.
The young speaker from XR blamed older people for putting the young in this situation. She said that every older person was aware how they were responsible but had been too busy consuming and had ignored climate change.
Just 100 companies globally cause 72% of CO2 emissions. It is in fact capitalism that is causing climate change, not older people or individuals per se.
The capitalist profit system and capitalist governments will not solve climate change. We need to get rid of capitalism and have socialist planning to end climate change and achieve a sustainable economy.
XR said that all social classes were equally affected by climate change, yet it is already clear that the world's poorest people are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, with, for example, flooding in Mozambique and Bangladesh and widespread drought in India.
XR is 'non-hierarchical' and is made up of 'working groups'. But it is a network rather than a democratically run national organisation.
Socialist Party member Geraint raised the issue of involving trade unions. He said that a number of unions had passed policy on action on climate change and asked how XR was orientating towards the unions and workers.
The response was that inter-national activist Greta Thunberg had called for a general strike on 20 September.
We encourage youth climate strikers to engage with trade unionists over steps towards achieving workers' strike action. But practical ideas about how to achieve this were not put forward at the Nottingham meeting.
In the battle against the Poll Tax in the early 1990s, demos and street protests, including blockades of bailiffs and so forth, were important.
However, it was mass non-payment, organised through democratic anti-poll tax unions led by Militant supporters, now the Socialist Party, that made the tax unworkable (many Militant supporters including Labour MP Terry Fields were jailed for refusing to pay the iniquitous tax).
XR has organised some impressive activities but its demands are limited and rely on putting pressure on capitalist businesses and politicians to change and do what is needed. But the capitalist system exists to maximise profits, not to meet human needs and the environment.
To end destructive climate change and achieve a sustainable planet we need to unite the working class to get rid of capitalism and implement socialist change.
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